The 23 major cities with the worst quality of life in the world

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  • Every year consultancy firm releases a ranking of the cities with the highest quality of life in the world.
  • The cities are broadly speaking, large conurbations in the Western world, with a handful in east Asia and Australia.
  • But where are the cities with the worst quality of life? Business Insider took a look.
  • The cities are generally in Africa and the Middle East, where war, poverty, and weak infrastructure are common.

Mercer has released its Quality of Living Index, which looks at the cities that provide the best quality of life.

The ranking is one of the most comprehensive of its kind and is carried out annually to help multinational companies and other employers to compensate employees fairly when placing them on international assignments, according to Mercer.

Looking at 450 cities across the world, Mercer takes into account the following metrics to judge which cities made the list for the best quality of life – which therefore shows what it feels are the best and worst:

  • Political and social environment (political stability, crime, law enforcement)
  • Economic environment (currency-exchange regulations, banking services)
  • Socio-cultural environment (media availability and censorship, limitations on personal freedom)
  • Medical and health considerations (medical supplies and services, infectious diseases, sewage, waste disposal, air pollution)
  • Schools and education (standards and availability of international schools)
  • Public services and transportation (electricity, water, public transportation, traffic congestion)
  • Recreation (restaurants, theatres, cinemas, sports and leisure)
  • Consumer goods (availability of food/daily consumption items, cars)
  • Housing (rental housing, household appliances, furniture, maintenance services)
  • Natural environment (climate, record of natural disasters)

The cities with the best quality of life are, broadly speaking, large conurbations in the Western world, with a handful in east Asia and Australia. But where are the major cities with the worst quality in world?

Business Insider decided to take a look at the bottom of Mercer’s ranking, which features a large number of cities in Africa and the Middle East, where war, disease and poor infrastructure have lowered the quality of life significantly.

Take a look below:


23. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — The capital city is going through a building boom but many of its citizens are suffering from extreme poverty.

Foto: Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. source Dereje/Shutterstock

22. Harare, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe is in the midst of unprecedented upheaval following the retirement of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, and Harare remains a highly volatile city.

Foto: Zimbabwean police using rubber whips and tear gas break-up a demonstration by several thousand students in central Harare Friday, May 29, 1998. Hundreds of students demonstrated outside Parliament in downtown Harare for a second straight day Friday to demand the resignation of President Robert Mugabe and his unpopular government. source AP PHOTO/Rob Cooper

21. Ashgabat, Turkmenistan — Blighted by chronic water shortages, Ashgabat is an exceptionally hard place to live at times.

Foto: People attend the opening ceremony of a railway link to Afghanistan in the Ymamnazar customs control point, Turkmenistan, November 28, 2016. source REUTERS/Marat Gurt

20. Lagos, Nigeria — Africa’s largest city, Lagos has huge gulfs between its rich and poor, with many Nigerians wealthy from the oil industry living right next to those stricken by poverty.

Foto: source ariyo olasunkanmi/Shutterstock

19. Abuja, Nigeria — Nigeria’s capital faces similar problems to Lagos, and suffers from high crime rates from inter-communal violence.

Foto: source Jeff Ataway via flickr Creative Commons

18. Dushanbe, Tajikistan — Dushanbe has become mildly more liveable in the last year, according to Mercer, but the city still has major problems with both poverty and energy shortages.

Foto: source Sergey Ponomarev/AP Images

17. Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso — Safety is a major problem in the West African capital, with terrorist attacks a constant threat. Just last month 16 people were killed and 80 wounded in an attack on the city.

Foto: source Jeff Attaway via flickr Creative Commons

16. Dhaka, Bangladesh — One of the most populous cities on the planet, Bangladesh’s capital is incredibly poor and suffers from frequent environmental issues, including widespread flooding.

Foto: source Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters

15. Antananarivo, Madagascar — Madagascar may be famous for its natural beauty and abundant species of flora and fauna, but it’s capital city is a slightly different story. Crime is rife and political instability is a major issue.

Foto: source Reuters

14. Tripoli, Libya — Following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2011, Libya’s capital has been highly unstable, and was carved up by two rival warlords in 2015. It is also a major hub for refugees trying to enter Europe.

Foto: Tripoli, Libya. source Wikimedia Commons

13. Niamey, Niger — Governmental corruption and local poverty are rampant in Niger’s capital, which is a major stronghold for Islamist terrorism in the region.

Foto: Supporters of incumbent President Mahamadou Issoufou cheer at a campaign rally in Niamey, Niger, February 18, 2016. Niger holds presidential and legislative elections on Sunday. source Joe Penney/REUTERS

12. Bamako, Mali — Bordering Niger, Bamako is another African city plagued with societal issues. It has grown rapidly in recent years, which has exacerbated issues like poverty in the city.

Foto: source Wikimedia Commons/Arensond

11. Nouakchott, Mauritania — Mauritania’s capital, Nouakchott, is one of the only major cities located in the Sahara desert.

Foto: source REUTERS/Normand Blouin

10. Conakry, Guinea — Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, Conakry is home to more than 1.6 million people, and growing.

Foto: Conakry, Guinea source REUTERS/Luc Gnago

9. Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo — Located on the Congo River, Kinshasa has a turbulent history, and has huge issues with infrastructure. Widespread blackouts are common in the city of more than 11 million people.

Foto: Demonstrators kneel and chant slogans during a protest organised by Catholic activists in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo January 21, 2018. source Reuters

8. Brazzaville, Congo — On the other side of the river to Kinshasa, Brazzaville faces many similar issues. In recent years, government corruption has triggered huge protests in the city.

Foto: source Shutterstock/slavik_ua

7. Damascus, Syria — After nearly a decade of civil war, it is unsurprising that the quality of life in Syria’s capital is low. The threat of military strikes looms large at all times.

Foto: The Damascus sky lights up missile fire as the U.S. launches an attack on Syria targeting different parts of the capital early Saturday, April 14, 2018. source AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

6. N’Djamena, Chad — The city in one of the world’s poorest countries has suffered at the hands of militant Islamist group Boko Haram. Just this week the group killed three Chadian soldiers.

Foto: source Marco Di Lauro / Getty Images

5. Khartoum, Sudan — Sudan’s capital is a hotbed for ISIS recruitment in North Africa, and also suffers major infrastructure issues. This month there has been a major fuel shortage in the city.

Foto: People walk past the Faisal Islamic Bank in Khartoum, Sudan January 12, 2016. source Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

4. Port Au Prince, Haiti — Eight years on from the earthquake that tore Haiti apart, the country’s capital is yet to recover, much of the city is plagued by deadly gang violence, and poverty is widespread.

Foto: source Shutterstock

3. Sana’a, Yemen — Like Damascus, Yemen’s capital is ravaged by a brutal civil war. A recent outbreak of cholera has compounded Yemen’s problems, with more than one million people impacted by the disease.

Foto: A man waves traditional daggers, or Jambiyas, as he attends with supporters of the Houthi movement and Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh a rally to mark two years of the military intervention by the Saudi-led coalition, in Sanaa, Yemen March 26, 2017. source REUTERS/Khaled Abdullahv

2. Bangui, Central African Republic — Since becoming independent from France in 1960, the CAR has been highly unstable. Violent sectarian clashes erupt regularly in the area.

Foto: source REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

1. Baghdad, Iraq — Baghdad remains the major city with the worst quality of life globally. It has suffered severe infrastructural damage from several wars and continual on the ground violence. It continues to face threats from ISIS.

Foto: A car burns on a bridge over the Euphrates River that the US Army seized in Al Hindiyah, Iraq, March 31, 2003. source (AP Photo/John Moore)

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